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Published: Sunday, 4/18/2010

Accused says he wasn't in Hutaree 'loop'

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Sickles Sickles
ANONYMOUS / AP Enlarge

DETROIT - A Sandusky man charged in what federal prosecutors say was a Christian militia's plot to wage war against the federal government said yesterday that he wasn't aware of any such specific plans and regrets not severing ties with the group.

Kristopher Sickles, 27, said in a phone interview from jail in Sanilac County, Michigan, about 75 miles north of Detroit, that he has "never hurt anyone or taken steps to do so."

"As far as any specific plan to overthrow the government, I never heard such things," he said. "There was off-color talk, but there was no set plan to overthrow this or take over that."

Federal prosecutors said in court documents Friday that David Stone, the militia's leader, planned an elaborate, two-part training session for this month and told members it was OK to kill "anyone who might stumble upon the operation."

Mr. Sickles said he didn't know details, but what he knew of the "operation" made him wary and he didn't plan to attend.

"Basically, the idea of the op was to remain stealthy, to not be discovered," he said. "And that if they did run across someone - and that basically if they weren't willing to work with them, as they put it - they would basically put them down."

Mr. Sickles said he would have contacted authorities if he found out April training had become violent.

He said he joined the Michigan-based Hutaree to learn how to protect his family, not target the government.

He said he had trained with another militia in Michigan before meeting a Hutaree member and made four or five trips there to train with the Hutaree over a period of a year or so.

"I just went to train with this group periodically, every other month," Mr. Sickles said. "They're all a tight-knit family and I was out of the loop. I kind of got dragged into something that I really wasn't aware of."

The FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office in Detroit declined to comment on his remarks about the case.

At Mr. Sickles' mobile home, investigators said they found 13 guns, more than 8,000 rounds of ammunition, a Hutaree uniform, and a "ghillie suit" used by snipers to hide in the woods.

Mr. Sickles said he bought all of the items legally, but said he didn't believe he had that much ammunition.

He said he believes his remarks at Hutaree training sessions were taken out of context when reported by an informant.

"I'm not this sadistic person that they're presenting me to be," Mr. Sickles said. "I wouldn't just blindly follow someone or hurt another person."

A prosecutor has said in court that Mr. Sickles bragged that he killed his cat to see if he could shoot something he had feelings for.

He explained yesterday that it was an old, sick cat that he didn't have money to euthanize, so he shot it.

"I loved that cat and I cried," he said.

Prosecutors also said in a court document that Mr. Sickles said he wanted to set off a homemade bomb outside the Huron, Ohio, Police Pepartment.

Mr. Sickles said yesterday he remarked that it would be funny to "freak out" police with fireworks, not a bomb.

"I was quoted making several stupid and immoral statements at a training last year about law enforcement," he said. "I apologize for that."

In court, federal prosecutors have said Mr. Sickles led the militia in Ohio.

Mr. Sickles said the only other member in that state was his friend and co-defendant, Jacob Ward, 33, of Huron, near Sandusky.

Mr. Sickles is charged with seditious conspiracy; attempting to use weapons of mass destruction; and two counts of carrying, using and possessing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.

Nine suspected Hutaree members were arrested in raids in Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana late last month.

Prosecutors claim they plotted mass killings of police as a prelude to a larger war against the government.



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